Neisson 1993 Vintage 

Neisson 1993 Bottle-RG2 USE

Product of:  Martinique
Aged: 19 years
Price: €300 ($387) on Martinique
Alcohol: 46.3% ABV 
Sugar: 0 g/L 
Context:  Rhum Vieux Agricole 
RG Rating:  9

Tasting Notes 
Very Smooth.  A deeply scented bouquet of oak, caramel and terrific old age greet my nose upon pulling the tight cork seal.  Neisson 1993 Vintage strikes that most beautiful shade of amber sought by so many well aged rums.  Brighter and lighter than you might expect of 19 years in oak, it’s a hue only careful aging in barrels can produce, and unmatched by artificial colorings.  Legs form at an excruciatingly slow pace, apparently preferring to remain intact as a beaded crown toward the upper reaches of my swirl’s trace before sauntering down the side of the tasting glass.  Even for a rhum with such tempting scents, I wait and allow the aromas to develop.

Breathe deeply and discover hypnotic aromas of semisweet chocolate, baking spices, oaken vanilla and mild tannins, slightly rubbery dried fruit and a hint of curry.  Neisson’s 1993 19 year old offers sublime complexity; instead of engaging your analytical senses you simply roll back you eyes and marvel at the completeness.

The initial taste presents another level of flavor, more intense than the aromas and sharp layers of oak, star anise, white pepper, lesser notes of tobacco and mild rancio on a medium weight body that offers slight astringency at 46.3% ABV.  A dry coconut texture, pecan and vanilla flavors appear during the finish, leaving a long and generous aftertaste.  But it is the integrated wholeness of all these elements that is the most impressive sensory impression.

Neisson 1993 Cap-RG1 Crop

One look at the faceted bottle cap and you get the idea that Neisson 1993 vintage is a jewel of a rhum. 

Neisson’s Master Distiller Gregory Vernant introduced himself humbly as the “Rhum Maker” in an informal meeting with The Rum Gallery on June 17, 2013, summarizing the 1993 Vintage as “… a very complex nose with a good intensity and very rich aromas. On the palate, this rum offers a good roundness and solid aromas …”

Anecdotes
Neisson 1993 vintage rhum was laid down at 69% ABV, and has been aging since September 30th, 1993 in American oak barrels of 195 liters each.  Master Distiller Gregory Vernant took a sample from barrel # 93/001 on September 10, 2012 and on September 12 the distillery’s “commission” agreed to bottle the rum for public release.  In 2013 only four barrels of this millennium remained.  Three barrels will continue aging for a 21 Year Old rhum intended for release in 2014.

Oak barrles aging great rhum vieux at Distillerie Neisson

Many aspects of AOC-spec agricole rhum production impress me, but overall I’m struck by the important placed on terroir as a defining factor in Martinique’s rhum, much the same is attributed to the unique characteristics of continental France’s wine regions.  I wouldn’t argue theterroir point; even with Martinique’s small land mass and similarities of rhum production, each distillery’s rhum is unique.  Spend some time on the island, and soon enough you’ll be able to discern one distillery’s rhum from another in a blind tasting.  Case in point: Distillery Neisson, which produces only 2% of Martinique’s rhum, and is exceptional in it’s own right.  

The sugarcane used in making Neisson rhums grows in fairly widely spaced rows, allowing weeding of the fields three times each season, preserving water for the sugarcane.  The soil is of volcanic origin, has a well-drained sandy-clay-limestone texture, with a subsoil of volcanic pumice from Mount Pelée.  The climate is relatively dry with less than 60 inches of rain per year.  

Neisson ferments their cane juice vesou with baker’s yeast. The distilled spirit comes off copper column Savalle still after a single pass at an average 73% ABV, then stored in 200 hectolitre (~5,200 gallon) stainless steel tanks for at least three months (per AOC regulations).  The rhum is occasionally stirred to remove undesirable volatiles.  Reduction to bottle strength (52.5% ABV) with desalinated, dechlorinated water in three steps takes time, but is done so as to not transform the rum with a chemical change.  See more photos of the Neisson distillery here.

Opinion
Neisson 1993 Vintage delivers the complete agricole vieux experience.  The rhum is so well integrated that it overcomes the seeming dilemma of simultaneously presenting immense barrel-aged notes with a softness on the palate.  Call it powerful flavors expressed with delicacy.  Take your time, Neisson’s 1993 Vintage was held back for 19 years before bottling, and reward yourself with a patient sniffing and sipping experience.

Reviewed:  November 2014 at The Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017